A new study has found that teens are much more likely to start using electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) if their friends and family members perceive them as either cool or acceptable.
Jessica Barrington-Trimis, lead author and field experts from the University of Southern California (Los Angeles), gave a statement warning that “There is a lot of concern by the public health community that e-cigarettes may be recruiting a whole new group of people who never smoked cigarettes”.
The lead author also informed that while previous studies have found that using electronic cigarettes eventually leads to smoking traditional cigarettes, this is the first study in recorded history to investigate how the two groups differ and what influences teens to start using e-cigs.
Barrington-Trimis explained that many of study participants (all teens) admitted to never having smoked traditional cigarettes, but had recently started using electronic cigarettes. In fact, the research team found that if one were to put traditional smokers in a circle and electronic cigarette smokers in a second circle, the overlap wouldn’t be anywhere near as big as people might expect.
For their study, Barrington-Trimis and her colleagues looked at data gathered in 2014 from 2.084 teens living in Southern California. Roughly 25 percent (25%) of the participants reported using electronic cigarettes at some point in their life, while roughly 20 percent (20%) of the participants reported using traditional cigarettes at some point in their life.
Somewhere around 10 percent (10%) of the participants reported using electronic cigarettes at some point in past 30 days, while somewhere around 6 percent (6%) of the participants reported using traditional cigarettes at some point in past 30 days.
Teens felt a lot more inclined to start using electronic cigarettes or traditional cigarettes if either of the products was already being used by their family members or their friends, or if their peers perceived the unhealthy habit as being cool or having any kind of positive connotation.
About 14 percent (14%) of the participants believed that electronic cigarettes don’t harm a person’s health, while 1 percent (1%) of the participants believed that traditional cigarettes don’t harm a person’s health.
An interesting finding is that teens’ acknowledgment of potential harmful effects associated with electronic cigarettes and traditional cigarettes was closely linked to their likelihood of them starting to use or already using either product.
Barrington-Trimis and her team also found that roughly 41 percent (41%) of the participants who are currently using electronic cigarettes have never smoked a traditional cigarette. One possible explanation is that the teens in the study believed that their peers would be much more accepting of electronic cigarette use than traditional cigarette use.
The researchers could not say whether or not electronic cigarette use eventually leads to traditional cigarette use, but they stressed that a lot of teens are currently using e-cigs. As research into the potential health issues caused by electronic cigarette is in its early states, the team advices parents to tell their kids that nicotine is known to affect how a young person’s brain develops.
The study was published earlier this month, in the medical journal Pediatrics.
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